"Stay with the Dead"
My first day on 'SPACE: Above and Beyond'
November 3, 1995
I could hardly sleep the night before, thinking about going into work that morning. That is fairly typical for me in
this business. It is a strange combination of excitement and dread. But, in the words of the great Hunter S.
Thompson, "Buy the ticket... take the ride."
When I signed in at 5:30 A.M., I looked at my pay voucher and noticed that the name of the show was 'SPACE:
Above and Beyond.' This made me feel a little dumb, as I had quickly glanced at this program the sunday before
and had yet to make the connection. (duh!!) Then I read the name of the part that I was playing... 'Chig.'
Trying desperately to stay awake, I went directly to craft's services (show caterers) and immediately drank about
a gallon of coffee. Then a production assistant -- a pretty, young woman named Maria Battle, directed me to the
warehouse where the props and costumes were stored. There I found that 5 other guys were standing around...
waiting for their turn to be strapped into that ackward 'Chig' costume. So, on that first day, there were 6 of us
portraying the alien villians.
They seemed like a nice group of guys. However, there was the initial 'sizing-up' of one another that men seem
to habitually engage in. When I first met Kristian Sorensen, he was obviously a 'gung-ho' military man. John
Austin was already spinning yarns of Hollywood Babylon -- and he was obviously gifted in the art of conversation.
Sam Striger was quiet and said little. It was the same with Jason Rock. Bryan Rodgers and I immediately hit it off
and as soon as we were in costume, we ran off together in search of a cup of expresso.
We really had nothing to do for the first several hours. After a while, the production assistants realized that we
had nowhere to sit, so they dragged some barstools over by the rear loading dock area. Then we 'Chigs' were
instructed to stay there, as that was to be our 'holding area.' We passed the time, getting to know each other,
sharing information about job leads, telling stories of our individual experiences in Hollywood, and basically
'hanging around in the bull pen.'
Around 10:30 A.M., we were joined by a sizable group of male and female background performers who were
portraying marines. Talking with a few of them, we soon learned that we chigs were making more money than
they were for this gig. We didn't mention this fact to any of them, but it did make us feel a little better about the
Just before lunch, I was standing in the parking lot, just adjacent to the rear entrance to the sound stage, when
another group of actors that were portraying marine soldiers passed by. I couldn't help but notice that one of
them was a guy that had fairly long hair. This stuck out in my mind as being rather odd, as all the rest of the men
had really short military haircuts. The guy noticed that I was looking at him, glared back at me... and uttered
some expletive under his breath. I didn't much appreciate it, but said nothing in return. Instead I just threw a
negative stare back in his direction.
A little while later, I was back in the holding area, when this same character came into the room. This time he was
throwing an angry stare in my direction. Then he briskly marched towards me. He came so close to me that had I
not moved out of his way, he would have put his shoulder right into my chest. The extreme disrespect of his
actions made me mad and this time I swore at him. The man acted as if he didn't hear me and he continued on
I thought about it afterwards and got even more angry. I have had enough disrespect thrown my way in this
business and I was seriously considering having a heated confrontation with the jerk. I decided that I would seek
him out and I walked all over the soundstage, but he was nowhere to be found. I went over to the wardrobe
department, to the rest room, and even walked the perimeter of the building in search of the guy. My level of
upset was continuing to build and I felt I owed it to myself to stand-up for myself in this matter. Still, I couldn't
locate the dude.
Frustrated, I decided to put it out of my mind. It was almost lunch time, so I decided to go back over to the
wardrobe department for a moment, so that I could inquire as to whether or not we chigs could have the chest
armour removed during our break.
As the most direct route out of the soundstage and to the warehouses was through the production office lobby, I
walked through that section of the building and noticed that a large mural of the stars of the show was on the wall
over the receptionist's desk. And in that picture... staring back at me.. and larger-than-life... was the guy that I
had had that little run-in with. I was stunned and rather relieved that I haden't caught up with him and voiced my
opinion of him. I surely would have been fired, had I detained Rodney Roland and yelled at him. (During my
entire stint on that show, we never so much as gave each other the time of day. On the other hand, we never
had another run-in either.)
Lunch on the set was very good. I certainly didn't eat that well at home. We chigs sat together. That was the first
time that I got to take a good look at the stars of the show. As it turned out, I did recognize them. John Austin had
some knowledge of the 'who's who' of that production and basically detailed the names and jobs of the people
sitting around us. That helped a lot, as I was getting a clearer idea of the folks I was going to be dealing with.
After our meal was finished, we chigs went back to the area where we were staying for the first part of the day.
We weren't scheduled to be used in any shots for several hours yet, so we didn't have to get back into our
upper-body armour. So, Brian, Jason, Sam and I used that time to walk around and check out the soundstage. It
was quite a series of individual sets, all built into two separate warehouses. We looked at the troop transport
ship, the 58th personal quarters, the cockpit of a 'hammerhead,' the hospital, the navigation room of the
Saratoga... and the personal quarters of 'Commadore Ross.' It was quite a little tour and took us a while to see
everything. We almost forgot that we were actually at work.
It wasn't until a couple of hours later that the 'chig crew' was ordered to assemble back at the loading dock. Just
prior to this meeting, one of the wardrobe people ( who will remain nameless ) indicated to to a couple of us that
there was an earlier group of 'chigs,' but they all quit. We were interrupted before this person could give us all of
the details. (We never did find out the answer to the question of why the previous actors quit.)
Once assembled, the chigs were introduced to a man that was to be our choreographer. He was especially hired
to teach us specific moves that were intended to make the group appear as if they were behaving and thinking
as one -- 'a hive mentality,' as it was described to us. As I remember, we 'chigs' were intrigued. I can't speak for
all of the 'chig recruits,' but there was still a feeling of dread. There was something 'military' about it. Some of us
felt that we were being tested -- in effect, going through another audition. And we wondered that, if some or all of
us did not perform to the production companie's liking, would we too be 'let go?'
So the group of us took it very seriously. And there was some trepidation as to whether we would pass the test.
We approached the session with the choreographer as if our jobs depended upon it. For the next couple of
hours, we chigs were in a separate room and repeatedly going through a series of predetermined steps that
were designed to give us a truly alien-looking movement. We were instructed as to our body posture, stance and
pace of movement. To me, it seemed more like a marching band routine than a military-style manuever. But if
this was what the producers and directors had in mind, we were determined to deliver it to them. Around 6 P.M.,
we were given a short break. Then we were instructed to get into full gear, as we were now scheduled to perform
the 'dance steps' that we had learned for the director and producers.
To the best of my recollection, this was the first time that the 6 of us were simultaneously in full-costume. It was
miserably hot inside of those chig outfits. At first, the waredrobe people switched on the small fans that were built
into our helmets. But that was a problem, as when the fans were operating, hearing instructions from the
director's corps was nearly impossible. It was then decided that we would have to endure the heat and the fans
were turned off.
Aproximately 20 minutes later, the director ( Winrich Kolbe ) along with the producers ( Morgan and Wong )
entered the section of the soundstage where the actors portraying the chigs were gathered. We chigs were
instructed to stand motionless and in military formation. The production people inspected us and made
suggestions back and forth between themselves. The choreographer called us to attention and we then
performed our routine several times for the on-lookers.
When we finished, the wardrobe people came over to us and removed our headgear. I remember the looks on
the faces of the director and the producers were emotionless and they just talked between themselves. There
was really no indication as to whether they were reacting positively or not. The chigs were then sent out of the
room and the choreographer stayed with the 'big bosses.' Back at our holding area, we were instructed to keep
our gloves and chest armour on. A few moments later, our choreographer rejoined us. All that he could tell us
was 'they (the producers) are talking it over.'
I remember feeling disappointed, as we had endured the costumes and that choreographer for hours, but the
response to us was not overly-positive. I got the feeling that the actors that had had the job before us must have
given them some serious problems for them to have the attitude towards us that they apparently did. At that
point, I was fairly sure that this was going to be a one-time deal, but was determined to at least get my pay
voucher for that day. It felt like we were all pretty disappointed in the sequence of events. We certainly had given
it our best, but at that point, were not given any feedback on the company's opinion of how we had done.
By this time, the actors portraying the chigs had been on the set for over 12 hours, and we were solidly into
over-time. Then our choreographer emerged from the other sound stage and informed us that he was being
released for the day. I also noticed that the majority of the performers that were portraying marines were being
released. It was beginning to look like we had gone through all of that for nothing. I fully expected that we would
be sent home next. Still, there was no word. We just stayed put in the area that had been designated for us. I
was getting disgusted and without permission, I pulled off my 'chig gloves.' By this point, we had been on the set
and in those horribly uncomfortable costumes for so long that our tempers were getting short. We were all
starting to become rude to one another.
In the adjacent sound stage, they were now detonating special effects 'bombs.' The first one actually startled me.
I should have known better, but I haden't expected to hear explosions. Then one of the production assistants
came out and yelled 'Fire in the hole!'
Soon, the main actors stepped out of the soundstage and one of them, a young woman named Lanei Chapman,
mentioned to one of the wardrobe people that all but one of them had been released for the night. Not long
afterwards, the film crew came out as well. They all left the area and we chigs were just left sitting there,
speculating as to our own status. A pizza delivery guy soon showed up with a large order and we were told to
break for dinner. I remember thinking that was kind of funny because, with the exception of the choreography
session, we had been 'on break' all day.
After eating, it was getting to be around 9:30 at night. We went back to our section and waited another 30
minutes. Then the 2nd assistant director, a woman named Gere LaDue, ordered the wardrobe people to put our
helmets on us, as we were scheduled to be in the next shot. There was a collective sigh of relief between the
chigs. Most of us were wondering why we were still there. We were each then handed a strangely shaped piece
of fiberglass and were told that those were our rifles. It looked like a giant can-opener to me. And the chig gloves
were of such a fashion, that it was difficult to even hold the prop.
Again, we would have to stand around. This time, we were waiting for the lighting crew to make their adjustments.
Then the first A.D., a man named Chris Stoia, came over to us and explained the scene. We were told that we
would simply be walking through a man-made fog, as if on-patrol. John Austin was the first one in line, so he was
handed an operational version of the chig rifle. Before the scene was actually filmed, John was instructed on the
usuage of the device. When I saw the prop weapon fired, it looked pretty cheesy to me, but the special effects
guys ensured us that it would look 'cool' on tape.
We were then ordered back into line, and the director of photography indicated to the crew that he was ready to
shoot. The room was quieted and everyone but the actors were moved off of the stage. Then, simultaneously, I
heard the P.A.'s all yelling out 'Picture up!! Rolling!!'
Another man yelled 'Sound!' -- the first A.D. yelled 'Background!!' --- then the director yelled 'Action!!'
The six chigs just walked in a straight line from one side of the stage to the other. We repeated this two more
times, then were told to go back to the holding area. Back there, we had our armour removed, down to our
overalls. John Austin and myself were ordered to leave just the leg armour on, and were sent back to the sound
stage. There, we shot another short scene. The camera was pointed at the ground, we walked through the frame
and all that was seen of us was our feet and one of the actors (Morgan Weiser) pretending to be dead. Then we
were ordered off the stage again.
This time, John Austin was put back into full armour and I took a seat off-stage, but in a position where I could
continue to observe the action. The next scene was just John Austin. He was shot out-of-focus, as the director
said that they wanted the chigs to remain as mysterious as possible. Also, John Austin fired off a few rounds from
the special effects rifle. I remember that I thought he looked really cool, coming through the fake fog and blasting
away. And for a few moments, I felt really good, sitting behind the big net that convered the stage and
contemplating the fact that I was actually taking part in a network television show. It made up for some of the pain
of the day.
Next Diary Entry...
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